Bolton: Obama worst president for Israel – ever

Former US envoy to UN tells 'Post' that Jerusalem should pay as much attention to PA’s UN bid as to the "grass you tread beneath your feet."

July 13, 2011 02:14
John Bolton

John Bolton 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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US President Barack Obama is “the most anti-Israel president in the history of the state, without any question,” John Bolton, the former US envoy to the UN and a man considering entering the presidential race against Obama, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

“If you think that this is just a misunderstanding of where the green crayon went in 1949, then think again,” Bolton said of Obama. Bolton’s comments came during a meeting he had with the Post’s editorial board.

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Bolton, who is currently a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a Fox News commentator, said that Obama bought in to what he said was the “European line” that if you make progress between Israel and the Palestinians “sweetness and light” will break out in the region, and every other problem from Iran to terrorism will be easier to solve.

“I think that is like looking through the wrong end of the telescope,” he said.

Bolton, in the country along with former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar and Nobel Peace Prize laureate David Trimble from Northern Ireland as part of a delegation of international dignitaries involved in an organization called Friends of Israel Initiative, said he was considering running for the Republican nomination, and would made a decision by Labor Day.

“The problem is that we haven’t had an adequate discussion of national security issues for two and a half years,” he said, explaining why he was thinking about entering the race.

“It is not a priority for Obama, and I think that is a big mistake for the United States.”

Bolton said he conducted extensive “due diligence” about a possible race for the Republican nomination, including talking to fundraisers, pollsters, and campaign people in different states, including Iowa, where he has visited in advance of the Iowa caucuses, the first test in the US election calendar.

Some of Bolton’s harshest criticism of Obama had to do with the administration’s Iran policy, with Bolton saying he believed the Obama administration’s “real Plan B for the Iranian nuclear weapons program is that it can be contained and deterred, much as we contained and deterred the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

“I think that is fundamentally wrong,” Bolton said, adding that the only way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons was through military action.

“Diplomacy and sanctions are not going to work,” he said unequivocally.

“The Obama administration certainly isn’t going to use force against the Iranian program, and Israel is obviously very reluctant to do it as well,” he said.

“If Israel is not prepared to strike, then get ready for an Iran with nuclear weapons, and you can draw your own conclusions. If you think Iran’s behavior is bad now, imagine what it will be if it gets nuclear capability. I think we are all sleepwalking past this.”

Bolton said the US would have an easier time destroying Iran’s control of its nuclear fuel cycle than Israel would, but that Israel has the capability to do this, and has had it for some time.

“If I had been in charge of the Israeli government, I would have attacked in 2008 for several reasons,” he said.

“First, it was three years ago, so you are much more likely to have eliminated the key elements of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

Secondly, he said, “in 2008 you had a president sympathetic to Israel – so you calculate the next time that is going to occur.”

Bolton had equally strong words to say about the Palestinian bid for some type of statehood recognition at the UN in September, something he said should not – as it is in Israel and elsewhere – be getting more attention and energy than the Iranian nuclear threat.

Israel’s proper response to the move, he said, is “not to pay any attention to it, and to care no more about it than the grass you tread beneath your feet.”

Without referring directly to Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s oft-quoted comment that Israel faced a “diplomatic tsunami” in September, Bolton – who served as US envoy to the UN from 2005-2006 – said “if you make the General Assembly into something more than what it is, than you are giving it authority and legitimacy it doesn’t have.”

His comments were made against the backdrop of what is almost certain to be a US veto in the Security Council, the body whose approval is necessary for a state to become a UN member. In that case, the Palestinians are likely to take their bid to the General Assembly, which has no binding authority.

Bolton acknowledged, however, that the move did have political significance, similar to the “Zionism Equals Racism” declaration of the mid-1970s.

Leaning on past experience when he was head of the international organizations department in the State Department from 1989-1993, Bolton said that the only way to get this move stopped in the UN was for the US Congress to pass legislation saying that if the move did go through, Washington would cut off funding to the international body.

He said that a threat by former secretary of state and chief of staff James Baker, backed up by the first president George Bush, to cut off funds to the UN if the PLO was accepted into the UN system as a full member is what kept the PLO from gaining acceptance as a state in 1989.

The full interview with Bolton will appear in Friday’s Post.

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